One of the fun parts about our job on the PR team is that we get to visit a lot of different towns and cities to share about the great events, festivals and happenings here at Dollywood. While it is enjoyable for us to get out to spread the word, our company vehicles might not feel quite the same way!
Our team of four puts tens of thousands of miles on three different vehicles each year—and we’re a relatively small team! Needless to say, our vehicles need routine maintenance to make sure we’re not stuck on the side of the road somewhere between Pigeon Forge and Atlanta, Birmingham, Charlotte or any of the other markets we visit.
Enter our team of marvelous mechanics who work in what we hosts call, Tram Auto. If you’ve read my bio you know I enjoy cars (anything with wheels actually). So the last time I stopped by Tram Auto, I was amazed by the number and variety of vehicles in the maintenance shop ready for attention.
I was picking up one of our PR vehicles which was getting new tires. One of our host shuttle buses was on a lift, several golf carts were in various stages of rebuild and there were several more cars ready to come in for service. It was at that moment I realized how much the Tram Auto team does to keep Dollywood running (yes, pun intended).
I spoke with Jim Broad, the Team Lead at Tram Auto, about the wide range of work this team of five mechanics does every day. With the vast number of vehicles utilized at the park, the work could be daunting for just five mechanics, but due to their years of experience working on cars, diesels, lawnmowers and anything you can think of, they manage the task to perfection.
To make sure guests and hosts make it to the park entrance efficiently, the team diligently maintains the park’s 14 tram tugs (the lead vehicle in the tram) and 40 tram cars, and four host shuttle buses (to deliver employees from their parking lot to the host entrance). To keep employees moving about to perform their job duties, they also maintain around 120 company vehicles, more than 40 utility vehicles (golf carts, John Deere Gators, etc.) and multiple lifts that are used to help employees access hard to reach points throughout the park.
Additionally, the Tram Auto team is responsible for maintaining the antique DeWitt replica used in Dolly’s park parades when she visits. The original DeWitt’s were only manufactured from 1908 to 1910. Even though this is a replica, imagine calling the store for those hard-to-find parts! They also work on portable light towers and welders and they provide the upkeep for the cars found in Jukebox Junction. The parade floats for Dolly’s Parade of Many Colors, while fully electric, also fall under the purview of Tram Auto should a mechanical malady crop up at show time.
Jim says his team handles everything from routine maintenance to major overhauls and replacements. “We do maintenance work on all the vehicles—change oil and filters, check the engine and brakes for defects, and so on—but we also change transmissions and engines in the vehicles if necessary. You name it and we can do it. During the average year, we probably change 200-300 tires, and easily go through 300-400 quarts of oil.”
“We’re currently implementing a new system which will let us know every three months when any of our vehicles is due for its regular service. That will help add a lot of efficiencies for us.”
While a separate division, the Dollywood Express and its maintenance shop also falls under Jim’s purview. There he has six full-time employees and four part-time employees who help one of the park’s iconic attractions stay in top shape.
There also is one machinist who can make just about anything for the Dollywood Express, as well as for any other park teams who may need a unique piece fabricated. Again, imagine calling the local auto parts store and asking for the connecting rod for a 1943 Baldwin Locomotive. It may take a few days for them to track that one down. That’s why Dollywood’s machinist is ready to go to create that one-of-a-kind piece. For more about the Dollywood Express, here are two great blogs from our Dollywood Insiders.
As you can see, it takes a lot to keep Dollywood going full steam ahead (sorry, I can’t resist a pun). While the job could be daunting, Jim summed up the motivation that keeps his team on track (Ok, that was the last one).
“Our team puts in a lot of hours,” he explained. “There is no sit down time. There is always something in the garage. These guys have to always be on their toes. They take pride in what they are doing; when something comes in, we do our best to get it right the first time. We want to know that fixing problems help our guests and hosts have a more enjoyable experience while they are here.”